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Letters

What's fair when it comes to corporate executive pay?

In their Jan. 24 Opinion piece, "A fair way to shrink the wealth gap," Dmitri Iglitzin and Steven Hill argue that businesses should not be able to deduct for income tax purposes excessive executive compensation. ("Excessive" is defined as anything greater than 25 times what the lowest-paid employee at the company earns.) This, claim Messrs. Iglitzin and Hill, would be fair.

But let's examine their proposal by applying it to other groups. How about a type of surcharge on incomes more than 25 times the minimum wage? After all, if it's wrong for a CEO to earn more than 25 times the lowest-paid corporate employee, it's just as wrong for some entertainer to earn that much more than her gardener.

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The same is true for professional athletes. Why should quarterbacks make so much more than hot dog vendors? Don't forget attorneys. Successful lawyers make much more than their secretaries. Shouldn't we tax away such inequity?

This approach would only be fair if we wouldn't object if it were applied to us. Why use 25 times the lowest pay to define "excessive"? I make more than 5 times the lowest paid person at my workplace – what's "fair" about that? Once we let others determine which wages are fair, the government might as well set everyone's pay. This might be more fair, but it's not the world I want to live in.
David K. Walser
Phoenix

Regarding Dmitri Iglitzin and Steven Hill's Jan. 24 Opinion piece on excessive CEO pay: As a stock owner, I am aghast at the high level of executive compensation. While I reap modest benefits from risking my capital in the stock market, I can do little but vote by proxy against board directors who are sometimes responsible for essentially robbing a company of its profits. Currently, there are no adequate tools to control excessive executive pay.

Income inequality is indeed a great motivator that propels our US economy forward. A rapidly growing economy benefits both the rich and poor. It is important that financial incentives to work hard remain in place, but excessive income paid to executives does nothing to fuel the economy; it simply fuels greed.

Taxation can be a solution to income inequality. But this solution should be used not in gentle gradations; it should be applied as a sledgehammer on greed.

Let's roll out a tiered flat tax in the US: Zero percent would be paid in taxes on incomes up to the poverty level, 15 percent on incomes up to a designated high of $2 million (the high should be tied to inflation), and 90 percent on incomes above that designated level.
Michael R. Benning
Wayne, Pa.

In response to Dmitri Iglitzin and Steven Hill's Jan. 24 Opinion piece: A fair way to shrink the wealth gap would be to start with grossly overpaid sports figures and entertainers.

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At least most CEOs create jobs, products, and services. Sports figures and entertainers contribute little tangible value to society. It usually requires the efforts of others to create the actual products – i.e. movies, records, broadcasts, etc. – that are the vehicles that carry celebrities toward fame and wealth.

In my opinion, the average K-12 school-teacher makes a greater contribution to our US society in one week than do many celebrities during their entire careers. First responders and soldiers make superior contributions to society as well.
Ed Jones
Dunwoody, Georgia

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted will appear in print and on our website, www.csmonitor.com.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to (617) 450-2317, or e-mail to Letters.


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